Mail-voting fraud? That’s not what keeps election officials up at night

By John Wilkens,
The San Diego Union-Tribune,
August 23, 2020


When it comes to mail ballots, it’s not fraud that vexes election officials. It’s human nature.

People procrastinate.

That’s a problem as California prepares amid the COVID-19 pandemic to mail a ballot to every registered voter in the state for November’s presidential election.

The ballots go out the week of Oct. 5 and have to be returned by Election Day, Nov. 3. Some people who wait until the last minute think that means they’re OK if they put it in a mailbox on that date. But that’s not the rule.

Ballots have to be postmarked by Election Day, and they have to arrive no later than 17 days after that date at the county Registrar of Voters office or they won’t get counted.

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“The average rejection rate in recent elections in California has been about 1.7 percent, which doesn’t sound like a lot,” said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Sacramento “But I don’t think people would accept 1.7 percent of their bank transactions failing. We shouldn’t accept it for voting by mail, either.”

Elections officials are instituting changes for November aimed at decreasing the number of disallowed ballots. A majority of voters in the state — about 72 percent in March — already vote by mail and are familiar with the basic process. In San Diego County, 76.5 percent of the 1.8 million registered voters already get mail ballots.

But for the November election, because of COVID-19 concerns, every registered voter in the state will get one. That means thousands of people will be asked to do something new.

And they’ll be asked to do it during a pandemic that is altering other familiar aspects of voting.

Even though everyone gets a mail ballot, those who prefer can still vote the old-fashioned way, in person, on Election Day. Except instead of the usual 1,600 neighborhood precincts scattered around the county, there will be 235 “super polls,” and instead of being open just on Election Day, they’ll be open for the three days prior, too, starting on Oct. 31. 

It’s a lot of moving parts.

“Voters are used to behaving in a particular way, so normally we wouldn’t be introducing this kind of change in a presidential election year,” said Michael Vu, the county registrar of voters. “But there’s a pandemic going on, and we have to live in that world.” (Full Story)